NICOLA Sturgeon is to urge the Prime Minister to introduce a universal basic income in response to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

She revealed the move as she responded to MSPs during First Minister’s questions yesterday as the death toll for people who have tested positive from the virus climbed to 1332 in Scotland. To date, the UK Government has opposed the policy.

“I am on record as being very interested in a universal basic income and I think that the experience of this pandemic and the impacts from dealing with it make the case for a universal basic income stronger than ever. I certainly want to see it seriously considered as an option,” she told Holyrood responding to LibDem leader Willie Rennie.

“I do not want to stray into political or constitutional territory, but I wish that we had the totality of powers in this Parliament so that we could move ahead with something like that right now. However, with welfare still largely reserved, we would need to do that in co-operation and collaboration with the UK Government. I will continue to raise it with the UK Government.”

The First Minister was also pressed on aspects of the Scottish Government’s strategy in dealing the Covid-19 outbreak, including the policy of “test, trace and isolate” for people with the symptoms and those they have been in contact with.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon hits back at claims she tried to embarrass Johnson

It is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the key method of stopping the spread of the virus and has been used widely and effectively by countries such as Germany and South Korea, but was halted in Scotland and the rest of the UK in mid-March when the response moved from the containment to delay phrase of the pandemic.

She said the policy would be used as the Government’s move into easing lockdown restrictions, but warned people may face repeated periods of self-isolation.

Professor Hugh Pennington told Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee earlier it was a “policy error” to move to the delay phase of the pandemic response so soon.

The University of Aberdeen emeritus professor said a comprehensive testing regime should now be put in place by the Scottish Government to protect care homes and “keep the damn thing out”.

He said he believes the rate of infection in care homes could be as high as 10 times more than in the rest of the population due to an emphasis on social interaction before the lockdown.

Asked if there was one single message he would like the committee to relay to the Scottish Government, Professor Pennington quoted the WHO.

The First Minister was asked about Pennington’s assessments when she attended the daily briefing and also at First Minister’s Questions, responding that she had yet to examine Pennington’s evidence in detail.

Earlier in the session, the microbiologist said the lockdown has been “successful”, although he argued there had not been enough emphasis put on testing. He added: “We don’t have a vaccine or anti-viral drugs for Covid-19 so prevention is the absolute paramount thing and the only way that we know where the virus is, is by testing.”

When asked by committee convener Lewis Macdonald if he thought the move away from contact tracing – officials locating people who have been in contact with confirmed cases – was a “strategic error”, the professor agreed.

The First Minister also announced health boards will now test everyone aged over 70 who is admitted to hospital, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Meanwhile, councils are being encouraged to create temporary cycle lanes and walkways with a new £10m government fund.